Tuticorin protests beginning of anti-corporate outrage in India?

Vedanta-owned Sterlite copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu has evoked an outrage unparalleled in Indian history, especially against corporate plants. Tamil Nadu has been the hub of several plants ranging from nuclear energy to underground Neutrino tunnel but rarely was the opposition evident as in the case of anti-Sterlite protests.

The culmination to protests after three months of protests resulted in unexpected state-sponsored firing on peaceful protesters killing nine people in Tuticorin or Tuthkudi, making it evident that the state governments are playing hand-in-glove to emerging corporate dominance on social lives.

From Narora nuclear plant to Narmada dam, several environmental protests in northern India were met with prolonged negotiations but the Tuticorin firing sends out the message that the weak state governments are made to bend it like Beckham to the Centre’s diktats. Retorting to the police firing, actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan said, “Citizens are not criminals.” But the state government has treated protesters exactly like street criminals.

The brewing anti-Sterlite sentiments in Tuticorin is not without reason. Ever since March 2013 episode when hundreds of local people encountered health issues from breathing difficulty, nausea and throat infection following an alleged gas leak, the plant was shut down only to be allowed by the National Green Tribunal, indicating the heavy corporate lobbying against inconsequential local people’s lives.

Instead of addressing the core issue of closure of the demonic copper smelting plant, the ruling AIADMK government’s Chief Minister E Palaniswami dared to defend the unprovoked Jalianwala Bagh-like police firing on unarmed citizens. “The police had to take action under unavoidable circumstances to protect public life and property,” and the words echoed similar statements made by the British Raj against protesting people at the infamous Jalianwala Bagh a century ago.

The fact that more than 20,000 people have participated in the protests made no difference to the state government, which has behaved like their predecessors who behoved their British masters before the Independence. Unlike the British rule, it is the Corporate Raj that is dictating terms against all those who oppose their sinister designs of ecological damage.

The fact that it employs 3,000 people should not come in the way of protecting the health of tens of thousands of people who live in the ancient coastal city.

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